Do. You. Remember.

‘You’re not paid enough to be worrying about patients when you go home.” I was told in my A&E induction. “Hand on the concern to your consultant and let them do the worrying.”

It’s well said, and an elegant way of reiterating that if you’re concerned, you should chat with a senior. I appreciate where it comes from. I appreciate the thought behind it.

Last night I turned my car around. I was halfway home and I drove back to A&E because I realised I’d made a mistake. ‘Worried’ does not cover how I felt. I felt sick. I walked back through the doors, went straight to the consultant, and explained what I had done. She was fairly unconcerned, but I still don’t know what happened to my patient. I have not slept well.

My decisions, and my mistakes, can have terrible consequences. A simple thing – a missed detail, a forgotten test result – puts someone’s life at risk. One day, chances are I will have killed someone. What if that day was today?

I don’t know if I’ll be able to deal with that.

No matter how much I was paid.

shadowsDo you remember…?


4 responses to “Do. You. Remember.

  1. It is very hard, that feeling never goes. General practice calls it managing uncertainty. I have picked a specialty where I can get a ct in 20 minutes if I am worried. Mistakes happen and usually don’t result in death and disaster. It gets easier but is always there.

    • Have you seen the TED talk by Brian Goldman about doctors making mistakes? It’s ten minutes well spent, if you haven’t. Link at the bottom of the post.

      A CT in 20 minutes is pretty useful, but you’ve also picked a specialty where a mistake can be as simple as a slip of the hands, and I think that is a difficult burden to bear. The personal responsibility when operating feels more intense, somehow. More direct. I don’t know if that remains the case as you become more senior, but I’m guessing it does.

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